I’ve been working on this post for awhile now. A month, to be exact. But this was something I had to really think through before I shared. I had to first figure out what my own thoughts were before I could tell someone else what I was thinking.
And now, I’m ready to share.
Four weeks ago, we dropped our 15-year-old son Michael off at an out-of-state residential therapy center for adopted adolescents. He’ll be gone for at least a year. It was a grueling, challenging, tear-filled and gut-wrenching decision.
It wasn’t a quick decision, or one we took lightly. It followed years and years of trying so hard to connect with Michael; hoping for a breakthrough, crying because I couldn’t figure out why the love we had for him did not seem to be reciprocated. It followed years of chronic lying and stealing. It followed therapy sessions, 12 long years of crying out to God, and more than a decade of pain of having a child who just didn’t seem to love me back.
No matter how hard I tried, or what methods we employed (Love & Logic, TBRI, etc.) nothing seemed to work.
Early on, I knew Michael was not a “touchy feely” kid. In fact, when he was little and I would hug him, he would tense up because it made him so uncomfortable. After some time, I told him, “Mikey, it’s ok if you don’t want to hug me. One way you could show me you love me is just to come say goodnight to me each night before you go to bed.” Even though all of our kids say goodnight on the way to bed, Michael never would. More than 10 years went by, and not one “goodnight.” Even with gentle reminders around Mother’s Day or Christmas, nothing. It was devastating.
My heart broke a long time ago. While I loved Michael unconditionally, there was a huge gaping hole in my heart because one of my own kiddos couldn’t love me back. As a parent, I never anticipated that. I didn’t prepare for that. Although had someone told me ahead of time, I don’t think I could have been prepared for it anyway.
We talked to Michael a lot before he left. We involved him in the conversations, and asked for his thoughts. While he said he wanted to stay home, he also said he thought this residential therapy center would be the best fit for him for awhile. He knew he struggled in certain areas, and as desperately as we wanted to help him, we just couldn’t. He needed more, and we love him so much that we were willing to do anything we could to get him the help he needs. I want nothing more than for Michael to grow up and be an emotionally healthy adult; someone who can have healthy relationships and someday hopefully be able to connect with other people on a deeper level.
This center is the only residential therapy center that I’m aware of in the country that is specifically for adopted adolescents. Their therapy is centered around adoption-related issues. They use equine therapy as part of their program, and for any of you that know Michael, you know that is right up his alley.
So, it’s been four weeks. Chris and I have weekly Zoom therapy sessions with him. He has four group sessions a week and one individual therapy session per week. He has goals he’s working towards and things to look forward to. Today, he got to help a wild mustang start to build trust.
So, friends, that is the story. Well, it’s PART of the story. I am hoping and praying that the rest of Michael’s story will be filled with reconciliation, redemption, and restoration. Only time will tell, but I have no doubt that Michael will one day be able to tell his story and share his journey and the challenges he conquered and the joy that came out of it.
I wanted to share this because, while it may not make sense to those who haven’t adopted, there is a microcosm within the larger community who are adoptive parents like us. Many of them are petrified to share the realities of adoption because it can often be ugly and unpredictable and messy. We have witnessed so many of our very own dear friends be ripped apart by the devastation caused by the brokenness and trauma some of these kiddos bear, and they suffer in silence. As an encouragement to those who are in the trenches now, and as a dose of reality for those who are considering walking down the road of adoption, I want to be real. I wouldn’t change our path for anything, but I wish I had been better prepared.
If you are one of my praying friends, please pray for Michael, and for us as his parents. We want nothing more than healing for him. And please pray for this mama’s heart, because I need it, too.
**Edited to add: this is in no way, shape or form Michael’s fault. This is not him being a “bad kid” or us trying to “get rid of him.” This is truly a time for healing and growth, and I’m thankful we get to walk this road with him. He may never be able to reciprocate the way I would hope, and that’s ok. We will always meet him wherever he is.
**One more edit : I recognize adoption is the perfect picture of God’s love for us. How many of us have turned our backs to God, only to have Him waiting there with open arms when we are ready to return, or still loving us to the end even if we never choose to love Him back?? But I’m human and so it still hurts.